Q: A recent question from a CPSI asks," Can we get your opinion on a situation involving a playground that a developer built and we are in the process of accepting?
I am holding this process up with concerns about modifications to the playground. A unit was installed by the developer's subcontractors. They proceeded to build a "FACADE" next to the structure. This facade was self-designed and built/installed by the builders. During my initial walk thru, not an audit, I said that it does not comply with the CPSC/ASTM standards as the facade is in the use zone of the structure. (CPSC 5.0)The contractor then tried to justify the facade's location by using ASTM 3.1.14 functionally linked play structures. I didn't agree with their interpretation of the standard. Could I trouble you to offer an opinion on the playground and a possible solution if one exists?"
A: This entire design looks like the individual components have been laid out to be Play Functionally Linked. When equipment is play functionally linked the use zones can and will overlap since without having the stepping forms used to link various climbing components a user could not move from one to another safely.
Play functionally linked is a term intended for play components with play value that allows for continuous play or circuit play where, as an example, a child can navigate the entire play area without touching the ground. Stepping forms or a series of adjacent balance beams not physically connecting to a starting and finishing platform or landing is a good example of what we are talking about.
Themed facades are used all the time but care must be taken in their design so they do not cause any performance issues such as entrapment, impalement, entanglement, crush, shear, or sharp point hazards. There are many other concerns but you get the point. Falls to other equipment or surfacing is another major issue. The fall height of the equipment and the critical height of your surfacing is another concern. If the facade is play functionally linked to play components then it is a given that it must be evaluated by current standards and any elevated designated play surface must be used in determining what the fall height of the equipment is. Window ledges and tops of walls become the fall height of the equipment, and surfacing must provide a compliant safe landing by the standard recommendations.
That being said I hope you had a requirement in your bid specs that make compliance to current CPSC and ASTM appropriate standards and guidelines a requirement of acceptance of the final design and product at the time of purchase.